Cardiff topple brave Palace

Substitute Aron Gunnarsson headed home the winner for

Championship leaders Cardiff City, who beat Crystal Palace 2-1 on

Boxing Day.

An action-packed first half was book-ended by two goals 40

minutes apart, Mike Jedinak stunning the sell-out crowd with an

early opener before Craig Noone’s equalised a minute before the

interval.

Cardiff’s goal led a charmed life with Wilfried Zaha’s splendid

effort hitting the bar and chances aplenty for Palace but half-time

substitute Gunnarsson helped turn the tide for the Bluebirds before

scoring his sixth of the season from close range.

The Eagles came into this match having scored in all-but one of

their League games this season so it was perhaps no surprise when

captain Jedinak nodded home after just 180 seconds.

But Cardiff’s reaction was laboured to say the least and it took

until the 16th minute for the Bluebirds to really set their sights

on Julian Speroni’s goal, Craig Bellamy’s ambitious half-volley

sparking cries of “top of the league, you’re having a laugh” from

the buoyant travelling support.

And the 1,190 behind Speroni’s goal had every right to be

boisterous given their team’s start which they came incredibly

close to extending in two first-half minutes.

First Glenn Murray’s touch let him down as he raced clear and

then Zaha’s trickery bamboozled Kevin McNaughton down the Palace

left and his right-footed curler crashed off the crossbar. When the

ball bounced back to Yannick Bolasie his deflected drive forced

Marshall into a fingertip save.

A minute later Palace were threatening yet again, Owen Garvan’s

free-kick forcing Marshall into a low-save.

At the other end only the combination of Peter Ramage and his

keeper Speroni kept out Bellamy after the Welshman tried a cute lob

after racing clear.

Just when it looked like the Bluebirds would go into the

interval behind for the second successive home game they drew

level. Bellamy’s pace helped him get the better of Parr down the

Cardiff left and his pull-back into the box was perfect for Noone

to hammer a first-time effort into the top of the Palace net.

After an off-colour first-half display Malky Mackay shuffled his

midfield at the break with Jordon Mutch being replaced by

Gunnarsson. And his change seemed to work a treat, with the Iceland

midfielder helping to stop the

constant stream of Palace chances.

And in fact it took 12 minutes of the second period for the next

chance, Garvan’s drive flying just inches wide of Marshall’s near

post.

Bellamy was Cardiff’s biggest threat and the 33-year-old tested

Speroni with a low drive from an angle from Gunnarsson’s clever

pass as the game reached the hour mark.

Cardiff were beginning to engineer more chances and that

pressure paid off 27 minutes into the second half when Gunnarsson

rose to head in Bellamy’s right-footed corner via the underside of

the bar. Only the reactions of Speroni stopped the home side

extending their hard-fought lead, the keeper diving right to flick

Whittingham’s free-kick onto the bar.